By: Azuka Onye
Having grown up in a traditionally West African family, I know that foods like fufu and soup, plantain and red meat are staples to African cuisine. Who can blame us? These foods are so darn tasty. Many of us do not realize the horrible affects that a diet rich in saturated fats, starches and sugar can have on our body and the complications that can develop in the future.
According to Jean M. Fourie from the Chronic Disease and Lifestyles Unit of the Medical Research Council, while the death rates from AIDS in South Africa are high, rates from chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Stroke are also on the rise. This is true for many other African nations as well. What can we do to decrease this rate
? It is extremely important that our generation, Generation X, begins a dialogue about our diet and how it can affect our health later on in life. We must also start talking to our parents about their diet and how it is affecting them. Let us start planning now for later. Below are a few tips on how to decrease your risk for CVD and Stroke in the Future:
DIET: “We are What We Eat.”
ANTIODIXANTS: Everyone knows that fruits and veggies are good for you. But do you know why? They contain anti-oxidants, which are substances that help your body to rid itself of poisonous side products produced during digestion of some of the foods we eat. Some foods that include anti- oxidants include: carrots, peppers, acai, berries, apples, oranges and grape fruit. Making these delicious fruits and veggies a part of your daily diet will not only satisfy your hunger and make you feel full but will also rid our body of harmful chemicals.
FISH: I love red meat. Most people do. Red meat can, however, lead to an increased risk of not only, CVD and stroke but colon cancer as well. Try substituting red meat with a tasty alternative like fish. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce cholesterol, CVD, stroke and colon cancer.
EXERCISE: Obesity is the biggest risk factor for CVD and stroke but can also lead to a number of other diseases including, diabetes and cancer. The CDC recommends moderate exercise for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. Exercising can include anything from power walking to taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Please visit the CDC website for more tips: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html
STRESS: Few people know about the relationship between stress, stroke and heart disease. Stress factors like, your job and home life can increase your chances of having a stroke and/or developing CVD. This is largely attributed to a hormone that the body makes called cortisol. When you are stressed your body releases this hormone in response. As a result there is an increase in the storage of fat in the mid-section, an increase in blood sugar levels and suppression of the immune system. Some ways to decrease the production of cortisol include:
- Massage therapy
- Music therapy
- Black Tea
- Omega-3 (Fish Oils)
- Sexual Intercourse